*Update* After the publishing of this article, the two high school students charged with rape in the juvenile court of Steubenville, Ohio have been found delinquent. Which means guilty of the juvenile charges. Source
Typically, during freshman orientation at most universities and colleges in the US, a lecture on rape prevention is given. This lecture almost always focuses on protecting yourself from being victimized. It rarely, if ever, touches on stopping yourself from becoming a perpetrator.
Most often female coeds are told to employ the "buddy system", walk in groups, never go to parties alone or leave without your friends. "If we came here together, we are leaving together," is the mantra held by many coeds. "Do not leave your drink unattended," is another warning given potential victims.
"Look to your left and to your right. The person next to you may not be here in four years. Do not become that person," says someone at every freshman orientation ever in existence. But they probably should say, "Look to your left and to your right. The person next to you may become your rapist."
This is the real warning that should be given. Most rapists are not scary strangers waiting to pounce on you as you do nothing to protect yourself. Most rapists are people you can trust. They are classmates, teachers, religious leaders, babysitters, family members, and family friends.
Accusations in Steubenville, Ohio
Rape cases rarely make headlines because they are rarely reported and prosecuted. The last major rape story that hit news wires was probably the Duke Lacrosse scandal from several years ago. Now instead of Durham, North Carolina, Steubenville, Ohio has taken center stage.
The story hit national media that Ohio high school football players were involved in the rape of a sixteen-year-old girl. The actions that took place after several parties were recorded via video and pictures that were distributed on social media, according to CNN. Allegedly, in the video, the young lady is clearly intoxicated and being fondled and digitally penetrated. Under Ohio law, digital penetration, or sexual conduct of any sort without consent is rape.
Ohio Statute 2907.02 Rape.
(1) No person shall engage in sexual conduct with another who is not the spouse of the offender or who is the spouse of the offender but is living separate and apart from the offender, when any of the following applies:
(a) For the purpose of preventing resistance, the offender substantially impairs the other person’s judgment or control by administering any drug, intoxicant, or controlled substance to the other person surreptitiously or by force, threat of force, or deception.
(b) The other person is less than thirteen years of age, whether or not the offender knows the age of the other person.
(c) The other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age, and the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age.
(2) No person shall engage in sexual conduct with another when the offender purposely compels the other person to submit by force or threat of force. (Source)
Right now, Steubenville, Ohio is at the center of a national debate: is there a rape culture in America? Two football players are on trial for raping a sixteen-year-old girl from West Virginia, who was, according to prosecutors, too drunk to consent to any sexual activity. Many other students, who participated in the alleged assault of the teen girl, were given immunity in exchange for testimony against the two football players.
In the fictional Quentin Tarantino film, Django, they are called "comfort girls". These are the slave women, and young girls, who are repeatedly raped by plantation owners and their comrades. Sadly, Tarantino's film is a depiction of the truth that occurred in this country long ago. A truth that is woven into the fabric of this society.
How could it not be? It, rape, was an accepted practice, an event that was celebrated. These slave women had no rights to their own bodies, so it wasn't really rape, right? So the perpetrators would go on to live out their normal lives and raise families, while the victims were forced to suffer silently. After all, the rapists were good people. Not monsters who would do something as vile as commit a rape.
- "You can't rape the willing" and other sayings are at issue in our culture. Why? Because what seems like "willing" to one person may be "unwilling" to the person being violated.
"It's not wrong...unless you're caught!" Not to defend the boys, but I do tend to look at "victim's" participation in things like this. "Yeah, I wore a see-through LOWer than a basement-cut blouse, mini skirt and a pair of cfm shoes, but don't know why he thought it was ok to grab me." * Shameless PSA plug * Contact your local American Tae Kwon Do Association (ATA) & see if any older students are going for Black belt. They have to choose a major and sexual harassment and rape prevention (SHARP) is sometimes offered.--online response to the Steubenville case
The mere thought of talking to potential perpetrators about not becoming perpetrators is scoffed at when discussing rape prevention. In an article penned for Ebony Magazine, "5 Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape," writer Zerlina Maxwell touches on a few aspects of the rape culture in our society, and receives quite a bit of rancor in response.
Well, actually, I am wondering why one needs to be taught how not to rape. Seems simple to me - when I was younger, I was about the a**. Real talk. I was trying to smash…BUT…I lived by a simple code. If you're not serving, I'm not dining.
Meaning, you have to offer it of sound mind and body, otherwise, no dice, and no hard feelings. Served me just fine, and I don't recall ever needing a class on it.- a fellow's response to the Ebony article
Why is it so hard to tell someone he or she should not sexually abuse another person? The truth is, most people have no idea what sexual abuse is, and dare you to tell them. This places victims in peril of abuse, and perpetrators in peril of incarceration in many cases.
To protect everyone before a situation gets complicated, there are a few things you need to know:
Is "no" ever "maybe"? Is silence, "yes"? For years the chant, "No means no!" rang out as a warning to potential perpetrators. So if you do not hear "no" does that mean it is not rape?
You don't have to say "no". Consent has to be "yes" and not withdrawn. Silence is not consent. An under aged or incapacitated person cannot give consent. "Implied consent" is not something anyone should hang his/her hat on when it comes to sexual abuse. If you don't get a "yes", give it a rest. As a South Carolina attorney stated, "Ignorance of the law, is not a defense." In case you are in North Carolina, you can read the rape statute here.
Strip club mentality
There is a "look, but don't touch" policy at many strip clubs. However, there is always a lot of touching that goes on. They say it, but do not mean it. Too many people take the strip club mentality into the public domain. It does not work like that.
If you see someone who entices you, for whatever reason, you do not have a right to reach out and touch him or her, or to please yourself at that person's expense. No right at all. Whether you are giving that person care, money, or the time of day, the only time you have a privilege to touch that person is when the person is able to give consent and gives that consent.
Most rapists and sex abusers will never spend a day in jail. Many will not lose a night of sleep. Meanwhile, victims carry the abuse with them for a lifetime. They are shamed to silence and shamed to suffering.
But the tide needs to turn. The damage is not in the "damagee", it is in the "damager". At some point society needs to stop treating the victims of abuse as though something is wrong with them, and start addressing the issues within the person inflicting the abuse. That is where the pain should lie.
Instead of telling victims what they should have done to prevent it, tell perpetrators to stop doing it. It seems like common sense, but common sense is not always common. If society continues to groom people to believe they can do what ever they want to do without due regard to other people, this will continue to happen.
It is all well and good to teach people to protect themselves, but someone needs to be taught how to not become that being from whom everyone is protected.
You do not have to be a perpetrator. You do not have to inflict your internal demons on other people. There is help for you. Talk to someone about your desires to commit these acts. Get help.
Is there a 1-800 number for potential abusers?